By Hannah Yakobi
Photography by Kareen Mallon
Truly unstoppable since his Project Runway debut, Lucian Matis’ name has been on everyone’s lips for the last five years. His collections carry a lot of artistic flair and creativity, and the award-winning designer is never afraid to experiment.
In the midst of another busy week, Matis tells FAJO Magazine that he continues to dream big and his next goal is to build an entire lifestyle around his brand.
HANNAH YAKOBI: You are originally from Romania. Could you tell us more about your move here – what led you to Canada?
LUCIAN MATIS: I arrived in Canada in 1999, and started my career under my own label in 2007. It was a family move: my sister moved here in 1995 and when my family came for a visit shortly afterwards, they loved the country. It’s so green and there are so many flowers – my Mom loves flowers! It’s such a peaceful and elegant country.
Like many of Canada’s fashion successes, you studied Fashion Design at Ryerson University. Why did you decide to pursue this career path?
Originally, I studied fine art in Romania because I wanted to become an artist. I was painting, sculpting and my specialty was graphic design. I chose the latter mainly because I knew the least about it but wanted to learn it the most. But when I moved to Canada, I realized that fashion was really what I was doing my whole life. I grew up in the fashion environment – my Mom was a tailor. It all happened subconsciously: I think I was a fashion designer throughout my whole life without knowing it.
I really couldn’t make up my mind about the fine arts, so I said: ‘I really need to do them all because I love photography, painting, sketching, illustrations, designing my own fabrics.’ There are so many aspects of fashion in which all of the fine arts are combined. And, for a long time, I was thinking about psychology too because a lot of what I do has to do with psychology – you have to know the client, know the way to make them happy, what their style is, their personality, what colours make them click.
What were your first impressions of the Canadian fashion industry then?
It was very safe – it was about a cultural aspect rather than an individual. Back home, I was used to artists who were dressed weirdly – they used it as a form of expression – whereas here I found that fashion was actually a trend.
Making clothes is a lot of work and not many designers are able to do more than one collection. You do three. To you, what would you say are their main distinguishing features?
There are two collections that we show at the fashion week in Toronto and one that we make for The Shopping Channel. The latter line is more of a comfortable, relaxed, easy-to-take-care-of product. We have anything from tailored pieces to jogging pants that look very dressy, and we have a lot of blazers that are stretchy. I love clothing that looks good but is practical. The MATIS by Lucian Matis collection focuses on a lot of jerseys, silks, wool. This is a bridge collection, a diffusion line. Prices are moderate and we use beautiful European fabrics for it – most of the prints are done in Germany. This is more of a dress collection. Lastly, we have the high-end Lucian Matis line, which is mainly based on custom orders. All of these pieces are tailored to the client’s body.
The most creative line is the Lucian Matis one, and that’s where I put all my creativity and crazy ideas. Here, I don’t really think about wearability. When you think of just one element – wearability – it eliminates a lot of ideas. So from an idea perspective, Lucian Matis is my favourite. From the challenge perspective, I love the other two collections because they have to be at a price point, they must be wearable and practical, and they have to keep up with the trends.
You mentioned that your mother was a tailor. Does she ever offer you advice?
She is my biggest critic and my biggest fan! (laughs) And when I don’t agree with what she says, I just don’t take the advice because she doesn’t push it too much. I find that she has a lot to say, especially when it comes to the wearable collection and the diffusion lines. Since she is very hard to please, she is very practical. She is like a perfect client.
What are your thoughts on the expansion of your company in the last few years?
I think that since Project Runway, my career has really taken off and I’ve been put on the map in the Canadian fashion industry. I’m really trying to reach out internationally and I find that, because my dreams are so big, my success until now is very minimal. I’m very content but I’m not ecstatic. I’m looking at it as a lifestyle: from eyewear, perfumes and home décor, to the three collections I am doing – I really want to expand. That’s when I will be happy and will say that I have achieved a lot. Until then, it’s a long way – it’s a lot of work and a lot of excitement.
Are there people who support you the most?
Yes, my Mom and I also have a solid group of friends who really encourage me. My assistant Lina is very supportive as well, and so is my good friend Arline Malakian, who is a fashion photographer.
You are from Europe. How often do you go back for visits?
I’m very glad you ask that! This year is the most exciting summer: on Aug.1, I’m going to a family reunion. We have not been together in 17 years! I have four siblings and we live all over the world: in the States, Italy, Romania and Canada. I am the youngest. I have one sister who is in fashion – she produces a lot of high-end lines, such as Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Prada. She does all their production, which is very stressful and a lot of work. I also have a sister who is in sales. My other sister is a nurse and my brother is an electrician. We have nothing in common, and it’s funny because he is the oldest and I’m the youngest – it’s like we are the complete opposites!
As your brand continues to grow, what can we expect to see from you in the near future?
I’m hoping that my big dream will come true and we will be able to build a Lucian Matis lifestyle. We also want to create furniture pieces. I want to do it with a purpose – to make it practical, usable, elegant and designed. We’ve already started doing the samples and I’m already seeing that I have to be really picky and test them on myself. I’m also hoping that in the near future we will develop the brand for menswear.
A photoshoot with Lucian Matis